01/16/2016 11:51PM

American Pharoah named Horse of the Year; Baffert, Zayat honored

Barbara D. Livingston
American Pharoah was named Horse of the Year and top 3-year-old male of 2015 at the Eclipse Awards dinner Saturday night.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – It’s unanimous! American Pharoah was the best horse in the country last year.

American Pharoah received all 261 votes for both Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male when the Eclipse Award winners for the 2015 racing season were announced Saturday night at a gala dinner at Gulfstream Park.

In the 45-year history of the Eclipse Awards, American Pharoah became only the second horse, joining John Henry in 1981, to get every first-place vote for Horse of the Year.

American Pharoah’s dominance propelled his trainer, Bob Baffert, and owner and breeder, the Zayat Stables of Ahmed Zayat, to Eclipse Awards in their respective divisions, too. The only member of American Pharoah’s team who did not share in the largesse was jockey Victor Espinoza, who lost out to Javier Castellano, who had a record-setting year for purse earnings.

American Pharoah last year became only the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown and the first since Affirmed in 1978. On Saturday night, American Pharoah further tied together that 37-year gap by becoming the first horse since Affirmed to win divisional Eclipse Awards at ages 2 and 3 along with Horse of the Year at 3.

In addition to his victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes, American Pharoah ended his racing career with an overpowering victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He won three other stakes races last year – the Haskell, Arkansas Derby, and Rebel – with his lone loss a second-place finish in the Travers.

Other equine divisional winners announced Saturday night were Nyquist (2-year-old male), Songbird (2-year-old filly), Stellar Wind (3-year-old filly), Honor Code (older dirt male), Beholder (older dirt female), Runhappy (male sprinter), La Verdad (female sprinter), Big Blue Kitten (male turf), Tepin (female turf), and Dawalan (steeplechase horse).

:: Check out all of Saturday night's Eclipse Award winners.

Beholder, age 5 last year, became a three-time champion, having also won Eclipse Awards at ages 2 and 3.

Tyler Gaffalione was named champion apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by employees of Daily Racing Form, members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, whose bloc includes employees of Equibase and most of the nation’s racing secretaries. There were 281 eligible voters, with 261 returning ballots.

All the votes are pooled, and the horse or person receiving the most first-place votes in their respective division is declared the winner.

Zayat bred American Pharoah by sending his mare Littleprincessemma to his stallion Pioneerof the Nile. He bought the colt back as a yearling after putting him up for sale at Saratoga. So, by racing a homebred, Zayat was eligible to have American Pharoah represent him as both owner and breeder, and Zayat handily won in both divisions – with Ken and Sarah Ramsey finishing a distant second in both – by a 220-26 vote as owner and a 190-39 vote as breeder.

The Ramseys did not come away empty-handed, though, as their Big Blue Kitten won the male turf title with 134 votes, downing fellow finalists Golden Horn (63 votes) and The Pizza Man (41).

Baffert received 200 votes to easily defeat Todd Pletcher (44) and Chad Brown (12) for champion trainer. It was Baffert’s fourth title but his first since three straight from 1997-99. Baffert also became the first trainer to have two Eclipse Award-winning males at ages 2 and 3, with American Pharoah following Lookin At Lucky.

Castellano won the jockey title by 184 votes to 70 for Espinoza. It was his third straight title.

The closest division was female sprinter, where La Verdad beat Wavell Avenue by a mere eight votes, 98-90, with Lady Shipman a distant third with 41. Five other horses received first-place votes in that category. DRF went for Wavell Avenue, 27-25, over La Verdad. The NTRA deadlocked at 14-14 between Wavell Avenue and La Verdad. The NTWAB, the bloc with the most voters, had it 59-49 for La Verdad over Wavell Avenue.

Champion 3-year-old filly, considered one of the more difficult categories this year, produced a surprisingly comfortable winner in Stellar Wind, who got 108 votes, more than twice her closest competitors, I’m a Chatterbox (47) and Found (46). Four other horses received first-place votes.

One division whose result was a bit closer than expected was older dirt male, in which Honor Code defeated Liam’s Map, 126-95, with four other horses receiving votes. Interestingly, the NTRA preferred Liam’s Map, 17-14, over Honor Code. DRF went for Honor Code over Liam’s Map, 39-28, and the NTWAB had it 73-50 in favor of Honor Code.

Many of the divisions were runaways, as expected.

The undefeated Songbird came up one vote shy of being a unanimous choice for champion 2-year-old filly. One voter from the NTWAB opted for Catch a Glimpse.

Beholder received 256 votes for champion older dirt female to beat Stopchargingmaria (4) and Sheer Drama (1).

Nyquist got 255 votes for champion 2-year-old male, with Mohaymen a distant second with 3.

The male sprint champ, Runhappy, also received 255 votes, with four other horses splitting the remaining six votes.

Tepin got 211 votes for champion female turf horse, easily outpolling runner-up Found, who had 38.

Dawalan won the steeplechase title, 165-47, over runner-up Bob Le Beau.

Gaffalione beat second-place Eric Cancel, 149-63, to win the apprentice jockey title.

Also Saturday night, Leonard Lavin was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit, and John O’Neil, the winner of last year’s DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, was recognized as the horseplayer of the year.

In addition, previously announced awards for media winners were presented to DRF’s Mary Simon for multimedia, Jennie Rees and Tim Sullivan for writing, NBC for national television, Brad and John Hennegan for television feature, and Scott Serio and Michael Clevenger for photography.

Steve Wilson More than 1 year ago
The dominant 4YO season turned in by Spectacular Bid in 1980 wasn't enough to be unanimously named HOY?
Jay Chapman More than 1 year ago
No kidding. He was so much better than the other horses that nobody showed up in the Woodward.
John Pisiona More than 1 year ago
AP well deserved HOY. However to be grouped with greats you have to go beyond your 3 yr. old campaign. As a footnote Run Happy was the real story in 15 coming from obscurity to crush the the big names in sprinting. A true freak.
Margie Young More than 1 year ago
Congratulations to all the winners and runner ups. Ideal coverage of the Awards, great the for the horse racing industry and fans alike.
From More than 1 year ago
Agree with that post -- but as glaring, I wish they would identify the 20 of the 281 eligible voters who did not bother to vote. It is an honor to be asked and the honor should be withdrawn if you do not reply. Phil
John Lyons More than 1 year ago
Can we identify the one idiot that did not vote for Songbird or the 5 idiots that didn't vote for Beholder??? these should have been unanimous votes for sure -- opinions -- everyone has one just like something else
Carl Mauricio More than 1 year ago
Awesome ride also in the Preakness. I was nervous and I'm sure that AP's connections were hyper. Victor Espinoza was calm and he came up with the best rider's decision ever. Take the lead instead of stablemate, Dortmund, and he caught Martin Garcia by surprise. That was a key decision for AP to go ahead and make history. Without taking anything away from Castellano, I still believe that VICTOR ESPINOZA SHOULD HAVE BEEN HONORED WITH THE ECLIPSE AWARD as everbody else connected to the success of American Pharoah. Everyother media not related to horseracing did it why not DRF, NTRA, turf members all involved. He was invited on primetime radio/tv best rating interviews. He did the best for the racing industry.
Thomas Georgetown More than 1 year ago
If you are going for the best jockey which I think the award is for how do you not go for the jockey who set the earnings record? Even in spite of not winning one of the TC races or the BC Classic.Granted, if you are voting on who got the most mainstream interviews then your choice should have prevailed.
Ronald Friedman More than 1 year ago
Never forgive him for not running him at 4 . 37 years and gone,wonderful.
John Boyes More than 1 year ago
Sounds like it all came down as expected , EXCEPT, how in all Gods name did someone not name Songbird champion 2 yr old ? That persons vote needs to be revoked , he's been watching way too much "Celebrity Name Game " instead of whats happening on the track !
Marilyn Shively More than 1 year ago
I would have liked to see Espinoza win the eclipse for jockey. I think people forget that Pharoah, though he be great, did not race around the track on his own. Espinoza was one of the reasons Pharoah won all three races, especially the Derby , the race that was a challenge for a not quite fit horse on the first Saturday in May.
Charles Koudsi More than 1 year ago
I totally agree, Victor Espinosa, should have received the eclipse award, based on his riding, rather than based on earnings, though Castellano is a great jockey in his own rights.
Kate Harper More than 1 year ago
Tremendous sweep by a simply great horse. Congratulations to the Zayat family, Bob Baffert and Victor Espinoza. We are unlikely to see another horse in our lifetime duplicate what he did last year, not simply the TC but the BC Classic as well. Mrs. Zayat gave a beautiful acceptance speech. She captured all the highs and lows of being involved as a breeder/owner in racing. The Zayats triumphed tonight with their brilliant colt.